In this sermon, we look at Zacchaeus’ identity trap—seeking significance through power.
1) Zacchaeus: Lost
Zacchaeus was one of the “bad guys” in the Bible because he was a chief tax collector and he was notoriously rich. Everyone knew him to be one of the wealthiest people in Jericho, and they hated him for it.
And that really was the identity trap of the tax-collectors. Wealth was what they lived for. They sold out their own people. They cheated and defrauded. They lived with scorn every day.
Zacchaeus built his identity around gaining influence through possessions.
But wealth was their fast-track to the kind of wealth and affluence that put them on the map. People might impugn their character, but they were impressed by the wealth. The tax-collectors made that trade all day long, and Zacchaeus most of all.
2) Zacchaeus: Found
Why would a rich man climb a tree to see Jesus? Think about it… Zacchaeus is wealthy and dignified, a senior leader in the world of finance. If he wanted to learn more about Jesus, he had plenty of contacts. He could have sent one of his many servants. Why is he going personally?
Something is driving Zacchaeus to throw caution to the wind here. Whatever it is, it is very personal for him, and it’s worth risking his status. He’s risking the significance he’s built up through wealth and status just to see Jesus, to know who this Jesus is.
Even though he has “everything,” Zacchaeus is still searching for more.
And so, Zacchaeus, with a deep soul-ache, desperately, recklessness, humbly, climbs a tree in hopes of catching a glimpse of the One who just might be able to give to him the significance his soul is longing for.
Of all the people in town, Jesus singles out Zacchaeus, the outcast, the scorned, the despised, the guilty, and invites himself to stay as a guest in his home. Does Zacchaeus deserve this? No. It’s grace. It’s all grace. Grace has found Zacchaeus.
3) Zacchaeus: Free
After Jesus visits his home, Zacchaeus gives away half of his wealth to the poor, and pledges to repay those he cheated, not just with interest, but fourfold! He lets go of his great possessions and grabs ahold of Jesus. He calls Jesus, “Lord.” Instead of being mastered by his possessions, he is freed by the Master.
Zacchaeus’ liberality is evidence that he’s found a greater treasure and a richer significance.
Zacchaeus discovered his significance wasn’t in what belonged to him, but in the One to whom he belonged.
Takeaway: The significance our souls desperately need is found in being treasured by our Father.
Questions about this sermon can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.